Hallelujah, I’m a Bum
Cold Mountain TrailParticipant
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Franklin Rosemont, Joe Hill: The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture
Franklin Rosemont’s magisterial work on Joe Hill brings Wobblyism – that powerful manifestation of the anarchist spirit…alive. His interpretation leaves me with a distinct idea about what made the Industrial Workers of the World such a threat in the eyes of the authorities and the “respectable” people back then…Rosemont’s work exemplifies how interpretation is everything; a brave spirit can be erased so easily simply by interpreting him/her according to the limited color palette of colonialist, imperialist, bourgeois consciousness…With Rosemont’s different “palette,” …an essence is released, the invigorating spirit to which Joe Hill was true…That essence, released by the portrait of a poet by a poet, is the spirit of “One Big Union,” of the brotherhood of man, of all God’s children, of common humanity, interdependence, inclusivity, love, etc. – the only dream powerful enough to live on past all auto-da-fes, witch burnings, genocides, pogroms and judicial executions, and that cannot, ever, really be killed.
For this reason of our “limited palette,” I see the problem facing the white progressive Left in America as the condition of imagination itself, which is desperate. Our imaginations are so thoroughly subjugated that we no longer can interpret the world in a way that connects us with the enlivening in-common spirit. Rather, the left depends on people responding to mediated “memes,” … Green. Sustainable. Woke. BLM… MeToo. And the red flags: Trump. Fascists. MAGA hats… The inspiration of One Big Union, of injury-to-one-is-injury-to-all, cannot be a matter of politically correct alignment, of being on the ethically “right side” against the extremist, wrong-sided Republicans…without the inclusive spirit based in a Dream, the Left is left, more or less, with faux electoral politics, and “more and more barbarous forms of capitalism.” (Rosemont)
The difference… between the Wobblies and the other revolutionaries (Socialists and Communists) of their day…was the former…had a revolutionary basis that was not materialist, but imaginative. Their union, as I gather from Rosemont’s depiction, depended….(on) the intuition of oneness, attainable through singing, poetry, lively talk, dance, etc. that in itself is a non-material critique of capitalism and capitalist assumptions. When you come down to it, the root source of revolutionary hope is the heart….the heart perceives the truth is “One Big Union,” and it never is fully extinguished. This means a foremost intention of top-down governance… must be to train hearts to qualify, equivocate, temporize, above all, to understand their subordinate place…
The poor substitutions for genuine vision offered by establishment liberal “realists,” are just more elaborate enclosures against the commons… The riffraff’s Dream of the in-common good…accepts nothing less than the good-for-all. In contrast, when worker struggle is limited to negotiations over hours and pay, working conditions and benefits, matters remain within the comfort zone of the powerful. When the Big Dream is set aside to concentrate on “realistic gains,” dreamers are bought off… The threat Wobblies posed to the materialist Dream, recalls the threat to the powerful made by the poor itinerant poet Jesus… executed for preaching Love your neighbor, Forgive your enemies… The larger “palette” allows us to see Jesus’s purpose came from his imaginative, improvisational re-interpretation of the orthodoxy of his day (i.e., poetically), and from his extremely lowly, no account position in society (as hobo). It allows us to see the real enemy of the One Big Union dream is entrapment in the orthodoxies of ones’ time, incapable of being free in imagination… Customarily… we hush this disquieting, disruptive inward clamor, in order to ”pass” in OCD society… we convince ourselves creativity is a gift of the genius few, not a gift in-common… Identified with the derelict , we could sing in company with Joe Hill and the Wobblies, Hallelujah I’m a Bum, and find ourselves back in the in-common Dream!
June 12, 2021 at 10:53 AM #429140MizzGrizzParticipant
- Total Posts: 3,526
She calls upon us to reject conventional notions of success,and follow family rather than occupation.
It’s a pretty good prescription for living differently,if you can do it.
Morris Berman’s Monastic Solution—to basically drop out of what is expected and cultivate your own garden—is similar.
June 12, 2021 at 12:36 PM #429149jwirrParticipant
- Total Posts: 1,917
I was 17 years old when I started following that advice. My severely disabled daughter was born that year. Family history had given me a look into institutional care facilities and what was wrong with them. I grew up that year. I decided that I would take care of her at home. But everyone thought I was crazy. They may have been right but at first it worked until my husband left us and two other children because he did not like the cost (he never understood that back then the state forced families to pay for the institutional care). But by deserting us and moving to another states he showed me exactly what I had decided to do. Welfare was my only choice. But I soon learned that the state preferred that to paying for institutional care which is costly to say the least. So for 26 years I took care of her at home with almost no help. The next 20 years I had homecare workers who would come a couple times a week for a couple of hours to do things I could not. She also started going to some day care places for the weekdays.
I also took jobs that I could do for the few hours a day she was gone but they were all part time and not considered work to Social Security. So that brings us to now – I knew from the beginning that I would end up living in poverty for the rest of my life but I did not know that I would not be eligible for the exes Social Security. Fortunately I have family that help me or my home could very well be under a bridge.
But I would do it all over again. Her life is better even today because of my decisions in my youth. So yes, hallelujah, I’m a bum.
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